OMNISCIENCE — The Funky Oneliner EP (1993) Reissue
Who says it’s better to be a has-been than a neverwas? Chatham County emcee Omniscience caught fire out of a backwoods trailer park in Bear Creek in the early ‘90s after being discovered by David “Ski Beatz” Willis, earning him the attention of Elektra Records imprint EastWest. His full debut effort The Raw Factor was planned for 1995, but by then the game had caught up to his Golden Age sensibilities.
Labels were gobbling up gangsta rap while alternative hip-hop and its jazzy beats was being faded, and with it, the career of Omniscience (real name: Yule Hanner) before it ever got off. But what was old is new again and his lone release, The Funky Oneliner EP (1993), has been resuscitated by Milwaukee rare-flow purveyors Dope Folks Records in the form of short-run vinyl reissues. Heavily influenced by a Tribe Called Quest, Greg Nice, Posdnuos and Guru, Omniscience threw their consciousness to the wind. He was raw, rude and unafraid to mix it up on top of highly cerebral production. The reissue EP includes the original four tracks — “Wreckognize,” “I’m On Mine,” “I Gotta Maintain” and “Freestyle After A Philly” — plus instrumentals and radio edits, but the notes on its face are a window into Greensboro’s hip-hop Golden Age. Its 6th Boro imprint was a partnership of Andreao ‘Fanatic’ Heard and Eli Davis, with Heard later going on to become a member of P. Diddy’s Grammy-winning production team the Hitmen and Davis currently the manager of platinum-selling Charlotte soul man Anthony Hamilton.
The music itself? Well, it’s absolutely a must-hear for disciples of old school boom-bap and cold crush. Omniscience himself is full-on the comeback trail as well, with The Raw Factor 2.0 (Remixes) released in September and more to come. The good thing about being a never-was? The door is never shut.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan